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PUC Judge Approves San Onofre Settlement

Site of spent nuclear fuel storage at San Onofre, Jan 2018

Credit: Southern California Edison

Above: Site of spent nuclear fuel storage at San Onofre, Jan 2018

A California Public Utilities Commission judge has endorsed a proposed settlement under which the owners of the failed San Onofre nuclear plant agreed to slice hundreds of millions of dollars from the cost to ratepayers of the 2012 breakdown.

If the full commission also approves the decision, customers of Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric will see their share of the $4.7 billion in closure costs reduced by $775 million, the Los Angeles Times reported. Under the original deal, ratepayers would have paid $3.3 billion of the costs.

Without commission approval, the settlement of a federal lawsuit challenging the 2014 plan that charged utility customers 70 percent of the nearly $5 billion in closure costs has languished. The ruling from Judge Darcie Houck, released late Monday, makes it more likely customers will save money from the previous arrangement.

RELATED: As San Onofre’s Radioactive Waste Goes Underground, Opponents Search For Alternatives

The only amendment imposed by the judge regards $25 million that was supposed to be paid by the utilities to study the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

That payment was first negotiated at a secret meeting in Warsaw, Poland, between former commission President Michael Peevey and an Edison executive, according to records previously disclosed in the commission investigation.

The specific deal point became part of a criminal investigation into the utilities commission conducted by the state attorney general's office.

Attorney Maria Severson, who sued Edison and the utilities commission in federal court to try to overturn the initial San Onofre deal, praised the ruling, The Times reported.

"It is great news for ratepayers," she said. "By doing this, the ratepayers will avoid paying the last five years of what they were charged under the original settlement agreement."

RELATED: Former ‘Navy Mayor’ Urges Reassessment Of San Onofre’s Nuclear Waste Risks

Severson and her law partner, former San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre, lost their case before a U.S. district judge in 2015. But more than a year later the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to hear the case.

The decision by federal appeals judges prompted attorneys for Edison and SDG&E to open settlement negotiations, and early this year all parties to the case announced the agreement to stop charging utility customers for many of the closure costs after December 2017.

The deal was calculated to trim $775 million or more from the residential and commercial utility bills through 2022.

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